I freeze, trying to make out the figure picking its way through the pampas grass. I hear boots on the gravel and snap out of my trance. I head towards the patio, ducking behind chairs and tables.
I crawl under the last table, the tablecloth hiding me. Knee length black boots fading into black jeans, a black top, and a face framed in flame red hair make up the figure standing as still as a statue outside.
“Is anybody home?” She sounds familiar, but I can’t place her. Then I remember. I’m seven, standing beside the monkey bars. A woman with bright red hair enters the park, and sticks a notice to the fence: This park is closed by the city of Edinburgh council, strictly no entry. Signed, Amber McLeod. She reads it and everyone leaves.
That play park was first to go. Next it was the corner shop, then Suki’s ice cream parlour. Her signature turning lives from good to bad. But what does Amber McLeod want here?
Everything’s still frozen, the firework still defies gravity, and the cat hasn’t moved an inch.
Amber sticks a notice to the back door. She takes a remote control out of her pocket, clicks it, and time returns to normal, as she slips away.
I run to the door, and frantically peel the laminated notice off the panel. This house is now to be moved into un-inhabitation, by order of the city of Edinburgh council. Signed, Amber McLeod. The last three words make me feel sick. Now she’s taking away homes too.
I feel a surge of anger for everyone who’s lost everything at the hands of Amber McLeod.
I grab my schoolbag, open the front door and get ready to take. Amber. Down.
Hiding in a bush, I see a flash of flame red hair and two catlike, grass green eyes. Amber carries a leather satchel bursting with laminated pages.
Climbing out of the bush, I start in pursuit.
I soon realise we’re approaching the parliament, just opposite Holyrood palace. Amber enters the building, nodding at the police guard.
I duck, crawling through the closing doors by the skin of my teeth, and review my surroundings. There are doors all along the corridor. Amber McLeod stands at the far end. She taps a code into a pad and I track her fingers. I run up and type in 169360. A quiet click opens the door with an industrial hiss. Amber faces me, a smile spread across her ruby red lips.
Dodging her, I run through the strange room. I career into a bookcase, nowhere to go. Amber is getting closer with every second. Pulling at the bookcase, I’m swung round violently, falling onto deeply carpeted floor. I lift my spinning head and see a maze of passages leading down towards the deep underbelly of parliament.
I hear Amber approaching, so I run down an endless passage until finally, I start falling, turning summersaults in the air before landing with a thump on a pile of cushions stacked conveniently under the gaping hole. I put them to one side: if Amber follows, she won’t have comforts she doesn’t deserve.
Clicking, scraping noises grow louder in the claustrophobic space. Machines of all shapes and sizes line the room.
I notice machines stamping, signing and laminating notices . I press a switch on the wall with a satisfying click. The machines stop and I read some notices. Houses across Edinburgh are getting uninhabited, shops too. She’s trying to make a bleaker, darker Edinburgh, a ghost city, any survivors following her rules. I find my camera and place it on a machine – perfectly camouflaged against the metal.
I start filming, then wrench the switch from the wall. Using nail clippers (the sharpest thing I have) I start cutting the wires.
“Well, well.” I turn quickly to see her satisfied expression, “I underestimated you. You have no idea what you’re dealing with.”
“What exactly am I dealing with?” I ask loudly, but not loud enough to arouse suspicion. She reaches into her pocket and takes out the remote. One click, and I know the world outside has stopped.
“My total control – more power, dare I say, than the First Minister.” She enjoys singing her own praises, but her eyes narrow. “Why do you want to know?”
I have my answer ready: “ We have to choose an influential women for a school project and I chose you!”
“Well I am inspiring, I totally understand your choice.” As predicted, she’s an egomaniac! “I’ll tell you my plan, but you must swear you won’t tell anyone. If the police catch wind of this I’ll be packed off to prison before you can say influential. I’m making the perfect modern city. Knocking down all the old buildings, the old town and deporting any undesirable persons!”
I gasp inwardly. This is worse than I thought.
“But that’s our secret. In your project say my goal is to make Edinburgh a better place for everyone. I must get on – the exit’s on your left!” She strides off. I grab my camera, and go to the exit.
There are lots of stairs. Finally I step out into the light, back to where I started. A paving stone slots back into place. If I didn’t know it was there, I would just pass it by.
Amber protests loudly, as she’s frogmarched into the police station. She spots me and looks ready to explode.
Amber’s face as we watch the video is priceless. I recognise the familiar words the police say on television as they take her to a cell. Now everyone will get their homes, shops and livelihoods back.
A smile spreads across my face as a police car drives me home. Dad arrives back soon after.
“Anything interesting happen while I was gone?” He asks me. I shrug, put the TV, on and relax, safe in the knowledge that Amber McLeod can never harm anyone again.